Do you obsessively hop on the scale each morning to see how much weight you’ve lost or gained? Is this really giving you good information or just playing with your emotions? Find out how often you should weigh yourself and what the number on the scale really means.
Don’t Drive Yourself Nutty
Running to the scale every morning will make you insane. The fluids in your body shift regularly, making it nearly impossible to have the exact same weight every day. Women especially experience fluid shifts especially around their menstrual cycle, making their weight fluctuate — and that’s totally normal!
If you’ve just started exercising, you can also find yourself being disappointed with the scale. When you work out, you may start losing fat but gain muscle. Since muscle weighs slightly more than fat, you’ll find the number on the scale may not be changing or it might even be going upward slightly. Because your body composition is changing, you may also find that your clothing fits differently.
Your diet can also contribute to water retention. If you eat a very salty meal, your body may hold on to some extra water. Also, if you had a hard workout, sweated a lot and didn’t drink enough, your body may take a little while to regulate itself.
Best Measurements for Fat Loss
The scale isn’t always the best measure of weight loss or change in body composition. Even taking your body mass index (which uses height compared to weight) isn’t very accurate, because of possible changes in body composition. Here are two better ways to check if you really lost weight:
1. Waist circumference: Circle your waist with a tape measure to determine how many inches you’ve lost. The tape measure should be placed at the level of your belly button.
2. Body fat percentage: Dietitians and certified trainers can take your body fat percentage, using skin calipers or other methods. This can help tell you the changes in your body composition, especially after you’ve been working out for several weeks or months. Do not use those electric units at the gym, however; they are very unreliable.
For any method you choose, you want to track changes over time so you get the full picture of what is happening to your body.
Bottom Line: The scale doesn’t tell you the best story of what is going on, so don’t make it your all-or-nothing way to measure your weight.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.